Shilin Karst


Pinnacle karst

Pinnacle karst occurring on Middle Permian dolomitic limestone.

Geological Period

Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian

Main geological interest

Geomorphology and active geological processes
Stratigraphy and sedimentology


Shilin Geopark, Shilin county, Yunnan province, China.
24°47’30.0″N, 103°16’30.0″E

Pinnacle karst occurring on Middle Permian dolomitic limestone.

The best site worldwide preserving and displaying various pinnacle karst landforms.

Shilin karst is a site of plateau karst, outstanding for the limestone pinnacles decorated with deep, sharp karren, which is the result of karst processes. The limestone is overlain by red Paleogene sandstone and Permian basalt. Shilin exhibits pinnacle shaped karst and other representative karst landforms such as doline, karst cave, depression, karst lake, natural bridge and waterfall, which not only enrich the aesthetic characteristics and values of karst in southern China, but also show the complex evolution history of karst landscape in southern China.

Pinnacle karst arising from a lake.

Diverse karst landforms in Shilin provide an valuable record of the regional geological history. Marine sedimentation ended in the Permian and was followed by terrestrial evolution until the present as represented by overlying basalt and lacustrine red beds. Shilin karst has been preserved and re-exposed repeatedly. Shilin is, therefore, the only site int he world that preserves the oldest stone forest, and it relfects over 200 million years of successive formation of karst landforms. Abundant marine fossil contained in the Middle Permian carbonate rocks (Qixia and Maokou Formations) and terrestrial fossils in the Eocene and Oligocene red beds are of great significance in regional stratigraphical correlation, particularly in southern China. Shilin preserves and displays various pinnacle karst landforms. Almost all existing pinnacle karst landforms, such as spire and pinnacle, can be found within the area. Therefore, it is regarded as the “Museum of Stone Forest Karst”. The Karst landforms and karstification mechanism are of great geomorphologic significance. “Stone Forest” is a term describing a distinctive karst landform and the term is now widely known.

Shilin contains a wider range of pinnacle shapes than other karst landscapes with pinnacle, attracting geologists’ interest. More than 150 articles and books have been published. The site has been well protected and was inscribed as Global Geopark in 2004 and World Natural Heritage site in 2007.

Geological map of Shilin area.

Group of Stone Forest Study (1997) Study on Lunnan stone forest Karst. Kunming: Yunnan Science and Technology Press.

Knez, M. et al. (2011) South China Karst Vol. II, ZRC SAZU, Založba ZRC. Available at:

Linhua, S. et al. (1997) ‘Stone forest: a jewellery of nature heritage’, Beijing: China Environmental Science Press, pp. 10–136.

Shouyue, Z. (1984) ‘The development and evolution of Lunan stone forest’, Carsologica Sinica, 2, pp. 78–87.

Xiaoping, C. et al. (1998) South China Karst Vol. I, ZRC SAZU, Založba ZRC. Available at:

Jihong BAO
Shilin Global Geopark Administrative Bureau, Yunnan, China